TransNamib Leaves Dundee in the Lurch

TSUMEB-BASED Dundee Precious Metals has been forced to use expensive road transport for its copper products and coal after TransNamib locomotives broke down some months ago.

The acting mine manager, Mouton Stroud, confirmed yesterday that his company had to hire trucks for transporting copper ore from Walvis Bay to Tsumeb and then copper from Tsumeb to Walvis Bay.

Stroud said he could not give more information on how the situation has affected the company in financial terms since those who have the details were still on leave.

“We have been using the services of a truck company. It has been several months since the locomotives broke down,” said Stroud.

Dundee company sources said the situation has slowed down the mine’s export business because it now has to transport thousands of tons of copper and copper ore by road, which might cause tremendous damage to the country’s road infrastructure.

TransNamib acting chief executive officer Hippy Tjivikua refused to comment despite asking The Namibian to email him questions on Sunday.

When The Namibian followed up yesterday, Tjivikua refused to give his email address, saying he had spoken to Williams Skinner, one of the managers at Dundee mine, who told him that the mine did have such a problem.

Efforts to talk to Skinner were unsuccessful. His office said he was on leave, while his mobile was unreachable yesterday.

TransNamib spokesperson Ailly Hangula Paulino said they can only respond to questions today.

A train driver, who spoke to The Namibian, confirmed that the locomotives have broken down.

“The current fleet of locomotives that we have are too old and needed to be fixed quite often but we are expecting new ones by the end of March,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Namibian reported in 2013 that 80% of TransNamib’s general electric locomotives were more than 45 years old.

In September last year, the new TransNamib board unveiled a N$400-million-dollar 180-day turnaround strategy which aims to, among other things, push for the refurbishment of the existing locomotives at a cost of N$60 million upgrade railway lines establish an operational structure for employees as well as reduce the parastatal’s long term debts.

As part of the 180-day turnaround strategy, seven locomotives were supposed to have been repaired by the end of this month.

TransNamib has 21 serviceable locomotives currently and the number is expected to double with the supply of 21 more class 33 GE locomotives from Transnet Engineering company of South Africa.

The supply of these locomotives will be spread over a five-year period and is expected to cost N$216 million.

It was also pointed out that the average price for each locomotive is N$30 million.

But three and a half months since the 180 day turn-around strategy, more locomotives have broken down affecting both passenger and commodity transportation.

Late last year, The Namibian reported that a passenger train that left Windhoek for Keetmanshoop arrived 12 hours behind schedule after the locomotive developed mechanical problems outside Mariental.

It was also reported that more than a 100 passengers travelling from Walvis Bay to Windhoek were infuriated when the train arrived in the capital 12 hours late.

In the past, TransNamib purchased locomotives from Chinese companies, and had received a loan of N$ 204 million in 2005 from China to buy 15 new locomotives and to repair others.

In 2006, the locomotives were declared unfit by experts who investigated them after a high number of accidents was reported from the use of these locomotives.

Before announcing the turnaround strategy, TransNamib bought six 17 SDD locomotives in addition to four others bought in 2004, despite continuous faults experienced with the locomotives.

Source : The Namibian